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US officials criticize Lockerbie bomber release

[JURIST] US officials on Thursday sharply criticized Scotland's decision to release [JURIST report] convicted Pan Am Flight 103 [BBC backgrounder] bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi [BBC profile]. Megrahi was recently diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer was released Thursday to his native Libya on compassionate grounds by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill [official profile]. US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] said [press release] that he is "extremely disappointed" with the decision, adding that "[t]he interests of justice have not been served. FBI Director Robert Mueller [official profile] also expressed [press release] deep disappointment. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] said [press release]:

The United States is deeply disappointed by the decision of the Scottish Executive to release Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which took the lives of 270 persons, including 189 Americans. We have continued to communicate our long-standing position to UK government officials and Scottish authorities that Megrahi should serve out the entirety of his sentence in Scotland. Today, we remember those whose lives were lost on December 21, 1988 and we extend our deepest sympathies to the families who live each day with the loss of their loved ones due to this heinous crime.

US officials had strongly opposed Megrahi's release. On Monday, seven US Senators, including Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official websites], sent a letter [text, PDF] to MacAskill urging him not to agree to Megrahi's release or transfer, joining last week's criticism [transcript] from Clinton. In November, the High Court denied [JURIST report] Megrahi's request to be released on bail during the appeals process. Lawyers for Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, were denied access in March 2008 to a "missing document," that they had sought [JURIST reports] in appealing his conviction. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) [official website] granted an appeal [JURIST report] in Megrahi's case in June 2007 and referred it the High Court after the commission identified six grounds [press release, PDF] for a possible "miscarriage of justice" in his trial and conviction. In 2003, Libya made its final compensation payment [JURIST report] to a US fund for victims' families in November 2008 after agreeing to accept responsibility [US DOS press release] for the 1988 airline bombing that killed all 259 on board [victims website], including 180 Americans.

8/22/09: Mueller sent a letter [text] to MacAskill Friday calling Megrahi's release "a mockery of the rule of law."

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